The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins members of the global press freedom community in demanding the release of human rights activist Hu Jia, who was tried in a Beijing court on March 18.
Hu, 34, was arrested on December 27, 2007, and formally charged on January 29, 2008, with “inciting subversion of state power”. He was accused of making comments to foreign media and publishing articles on Boxun, a banned Chinese-language website based in the United States, that were critical of Chinese authorities in relation to democracy and human rights. Hu was under house arrest at the time.
A lawyer for Hu, Li Fangping, told international press after the hearing that a verdict could be announced this week.
Hu’s wife, blogger Zeng Jinyan, was not allowed to attend the court. International reports state that several journalists, diplomats and Hu’s friends were also not allowed into the court.
The IFJ is deeply concerned about the integrity and fairness of the trial considering the limits placed on the media’s observation of the hearing.
Zeng, with their baby daughter, has been under house arrest since Hu’s arrest. Li was under surveillance by officials from December 27 until February 19.
On January 6, more than 100 human rights lawyers, writers and activists wrote an open letter to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress calling for the law on “inciting subversion of state power” to be amended.
They said the law not only jeopardised freedom of speech for all citizens but also breached China’s Constitution. Freedom of speech is enshrined in Chapter Two, Article 35, which states, “Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.”
Hu’s friend and colleague, human rights lawyer and university lecturer Teng Biao, was detained on March 6 without notice and questioned by Beijing Public Security Bureau officials for 41 hours. Teng was questioned about articles he had written and the content of interviews with journalists. Teng said he could not speak further because officials had warned him not to do so.
Human Rights Watch said Hu and Teng co-wrote an open letter entitled “The Real China and the Olympics” in September 2007 while Hu was under house arrest. The letter discussed human rights violations by Chinese authorities.
“With the international spotlight on China increasing in intensity ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games in August, China’s authorities must honour the central government’s commitment to uphold all human rights, including real freedom of expression for every citizen, as a condition of hosting the Games,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.
“Persecution of journalists and human rights activists for speaking to the media is utterly contrary to China’s pre-Olympics promises.”
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries